The Changeling and The Express, reviewed for you. Here's what to watch, why, and when. Listen up
4/7 Dir Clint Eastwood US (PG15) With his director’s hat on, Clint Eastwood doesn’t tend to be the cheeriest of souls, even if it does lead to piles of Oscars – multiple Academy-award winner Mystic River is about child abuse, and Hilary Swank’s second Best Actress Oscar was for a heart-breaking turn in Million Dollar Baby. Consider yourself warned – Changeling is astwood’s darkest work to date.
Angelina Jolie is Christine Collins, a single mother who returns home from work one day to find that her son, Walter, is missing. She is frantic, but this turns to elation when, months later, the Los Angeles police claim to have found him. Yet, Christine is plunged into even deeper despair when the returned boy turns out not to be her son at all. Not only that, but the police won’t hear of it, and they insist she take him home or she must surely be mad.
Based on a true story, Changeling is an enthrallingly gloomy tale of lives ruined by police corruption. But, so concerned is it with all the depressing details, the film loses pace about half way through, locking up our lead in a mental institution for longer than necessary (Jolie carries the whole thing, so when she’s out of action, the momentum starts to flag). It’s hardly fair on the viewer, sufficiently gripped to need an ending, but growing increasingly restless with each surplus scene. Still, we’re rewarded with an ending happier than what happened in real life – maybe even Eastwood needed a little light relief. Laura Chubb Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore
4/7 Dir Gary Fleder US (PG) Does the name Ernie Davis mean anything to you? Unless you know your American football, it’s unlikely. But just a couple of minutes into this true-life biopic, it becomes clear that Davis is more than your average sporting hero, making this more than your average Sunday afternoon sports movie.
In overtly racist early ’60s America, the African-American Davis is a gifted running back, earning the nickname ‘the Elmira express’ for his unstoppable charges on the field. Despite bigotry from the crowds and even his own team mates, Davis is determined to play, fighting his coach for the chance to compete in hostile environments like Texas and eventually winning over admirers including JFK.
The film can be a little too sentimental at times, giving a serious story a schmaltzy edge – Dennis Quaid is consistently cheesy as Davis’s coach Ben Schwartzwalder, and Rob Brown’s wide-eyed act paints Davis as a near-saint, although in the end he proves tragically human. But these are superficial quibbles; Davis deserves to be remembered, and this is an important story, if disappointingly bittersweet. That’s the problem with true-life tales – you can’t guarantee the all-American happy ending you might otherwise expect. Laura Chubb Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore